Waste Not, Want Not
We don’t hear this phrase much anymore: “Waste not, Want Not.”
What Does that Mean?
Basically it means when we waste stuff we don’t have the money to get what we want. But when you aren’t wasteful you have money left over to buy what you do want. Being wasteful is like “throwing money down the toilet.”
Why Am I Writing This?
I belong to lots of homemaking groups. I want to read what the ladies are saying, where they struggle and even read the awesome ideas some young homemakers have these days. I try to give back by answering posts where I have experience. One theme that comes up over and over again in every group is throwing things away instead of cleaning, reusing, or repurposing them.
One item that comes up over and over again is throwing away towels because they don’t match the decor anymore, look or smell dirty or have a hole in them. Usually, it’s a young to the middle-aged homemaker. Last week it was the Admin of a homemaking group. Her challenge for that day was that we should go through our linen closets and throw away (or send to a pet shelter) all towels that don’t match, look clean, or have a hole in them.
I was aghast!
What Should I Do With Them?
While her idea of sending the towels to a pet shelter is a good idea – and they are welcome there – there are many things we could do with them right at home and save some money in the process.
I can’t believe how many ladies say they just throw out their towels because they don’t feel they are getting clean. I don’t have a front loading washer, and I don’t plan to get one because I soak clothes. This is something my mom taught me years ago. In fact, the old washers always had a soak cycle. Today I just add washing soda and just shy of the normal amount of detergent to the hottest water possible for the fabric and soak it by turning off the washer after it has swished for a few mintues (there are always things I can do right by the washer while I wait for it to fill and swish for a few minutes: scoop the kitty litterbox, vacuum the floor, do some organizing ). I soak most my clothes as the washers today just don’t seem to get clothes clean. Or is it the fabrics today? I don’t know, but I do know that I soak almost everything. Sheets and towels get soaked for a few hours. Clothes maybe an hour. I put vinegar in the rinse cup to make sure all the detergent is washed away.
If you have a front loading machine, you’ll need to do this in the bathtub. And if you’re going to all that trouble, you might want to Google “how to strip towels.” I looked one up this morning and the lady said that she lives alone, washes her sheets every week, but they just looked dingy. She did the actual stripping process in her bathtub. This included washing soda, borax, laundry soap and something else – I think it was Calgon. The water turned murky. I see the same and I soak my sheets every time. I usually just use washing soda, but I do occasionally use borax or OxiClean.
It’s not buying some crazy expensive detergent. It’s not buying a detergent that has a strong scent to cover up the fact that the clothes aren’t totally clean and have an off smell. Old fashioned borax and washing soda are inexpensive to use and work really well. And they don’t harm our neurological system from the scents. Add the hottest water possible for the fabric – especially when you’re dissolving the cleaners – and THEN your sheets, towels, and clothes will be clean.
Make an Apron
I’ve cut bath towels in half, added bias tape to the cut side and you have a very absorbent apron. I don’t care what color it is during canning season when having a towel ON me really helps. I can grab a hot jar with it, wipe my hands, dry off a wet counter (from the jars dripping) and more. I might go through several of them when I’m “putting up” food. The same holds true when I am making bulk meals for the freezer.
Make a Heat Pack
Instead of spending some ridiculous amount of money for a heating pack that’s just filled with rice, make your own. You can choose to put the rice in a separate holder (use a stray tube sock for the rice) and then just make a cover that can be washed. If you haven’t seen these in the store, you just use cheap white rice to fill it. Leave a little room so you can form it to your neck or other body part. There is the concern with bugs, microwaving it will kill anything in there. Since I’m freaked out by any bugs in the house, I have always kept mine in a ziplock bag when not in use. You can also keep it in the freezer for a cold pack instead of a hot pack.
Make Dusting Mitts
If you get them young, kids love to help around the house. Remember we are training them to become responsible adults. Giving them their own dusting mitts will excite them. To make it their size, just trace around their hand – mitten style. Then add a little extra for growth and a seam allowance and sew it up. because towels ravel, you either need to serge it or do a Pajama seam (which means sewing halfway to the seam allowance line, turning it to the other side and then sewing a seam that will enclose the raw edges. This is a little more work, but for those of you who sew, this is a very quick project.
Make a cover for a pet bed – or even a bed itself. Again, make sure to enclose the raw edges.
Old towels work great for drying pets off after a bath. They are great in a bin next to the entry door to wipe muddy or wet feet. And, if you have a cat, consider using old towels to “purrito” them – completely wrap them when you need to do things they don’t like. We don’t all have cats that will sit still for ear drops, nail clippings, etc. Sometimes you need extra help and a towel helps contain all those “whappy” paws and claws.
Feral cats – or former ferals – will actually feel safer when “purritoed.” Watch any intake on Tiny Kittens YouTube and you will see how much calmer the feral cat becomes when wrapped. Shelly can do a lot with an otherwise wild cat once they are wrapped. And you’ll see she actually cuts holes into the towels to get at ears, eye, mouths… Watch your cat’s reaction, though. Some cats totally freak out being wrapped – even if their face is out of the towel. We don’t want to stress them, just contain them while we do what needs to be done.
Use for Rags
I use cotton terry rags a lot. When they get old they will leave lint behind, but in the beginning, they are great for washing windows, general house cleaning and floors. Later they can be a drying rag next to the washer. I save the slightly holey ones for this. Use them to wipe down the washer and dryer or the floor, too.
I also use the ones that are leaving a little lint behind to wash the really filthy things on my car: the rims of my tires, the door wells – places that are just black and yukky. Another use is to clean the window wells and sliding door tracks in the house. The ones used for these purposes never seem to get clean again. I can wash on the hottest water cycle, soak for even a full day, and these won’t always come clean. but by the time a towel has cycled down to this use, they are usually holey, fraying, dingy, or otherwise pretty close to ‘used up.” I don’t feel bad when these need to go into the trash. They’ve been used up fully.
It takes me a year, normally, to go through a roll of paper towels because I repurpose towels and other absorbent material as rags. Even old cotton socks make great dusting mitts. Little kids will think it’s fun to dust using an old cotton sock – especially if you draw a face on it with a magic marker. Be prepared for them to name their dusting “friend” and possibly carry on a conversation with it while they are dusting. It’s what kids do. It makes it more fun. Let them do it. If they want to have a puppet show or a long conversation with their dusting friend, tell them it’s fine – once the dusting is done. Then sit down with a well-deserved cup of coffee or tea and watch the puppet show.
Other Wasteful Choices
There are so many ways we are wasteful today. To be honest, I’m not as good at it as I used to be. But on garbage day I see the overflowing bins of my neighbors, some of whom are single or just a couple, then my own with one or two little garbage bags in the bin (plus the kitty litter) and have to wonder where all their garbage comes from. I’m talking about the garbage bin, not the recycle bin.
I don’t think I need to go into details about food. We all waste food, some a lot more than others. We had better food back in the day, so it was comparatively more expensive. You just didn’t waste food, it cost too much. Today food is cheap and people are wasteful. I read that if you weighed it over the course of a year, it averages out to a pound of food per person per day.!Another source said that about 1/3 of all the food we buy is wasted. Yikes! We all know that we waste food.
Other Household Items
Like the towels, I read often in the homemaking groups of throwing away socks and underwear every three to six months and “just buying fresh.” I don’t understand how young couples can even afford to do that, let alone live with themselves filling the garbage dump up with clothes that have not lived out their usefulness.
The reasoning with the socks, I’m told, is either they don’t look clean anymore or they are missing mates. Some of the ladies say they have solved the missing sock dilemma by buying all the same color and style and the guys just grab out two. They don’t even fold them, they just have a basket of them that they share. This works well if all the males in your house are the same size. My brothers were just far enough apart and had different body shapes that this didn’t work. My mom color-coded the boys’ bedding and clothes. One had browns and yellows, another black and white and the third had red and blue. That made sorting easier. I don’t remember the washer “eating” socks back then, but my washer repair guy said it’s a real thing today. He said most agitator washers have about a dozen socks stuck under the agitator. He asked if I wanted him to pull the agitator to show me and I said no. I had only ever “lost’ one sock. So if it was under there, it could stay.
So that was the socks, but the underwear baffles me. Underwear can be really expensive. Many of the ladies feel that after 3-6 months their underwear is gross and should be discarded. Again, I soak all my laundry, including my underwear. It shouldn’t be “gross.” They are clean when I’m done. I’m past the age of women’s accidents, but even then I would wash by hand, then throw in a bucket to soak, if necessary. There wasn’t a stain I couldn’t get out. We were taught to wear our underclothes until we outgrew them or they had holes (although in my younger years we always repaired the holes of our socks and underwear).
Then there’s just all the clothes we buy. Most women will admit they have clothes they’ve never ever worn, probably still with the tags on it. Sometimes we get it home and it doesn’t fit right, but we never take it back for whatever reason. But a lot of it is impulse buying or that we just have SO many clothes we forget we even bought it.
I’m about to do a major purge myself. I have clothes that I’ll never wear again because I am no longer working outside the house. I don’t need those clothes anymore. When I came home, it was due to an accident. I gained weight, then I gained even more weight when it became apparent that I’d never be going back to work. I need to do a major purge. I will keep some of my absolute favorites in hopes that I will lose this weight. But most of my clothes will be donated shortly. I feel sad about that, but it’s a reality for me. What won’t happen to those clothes is just throwing them in the trash. There are many people out there who could use them. The better work clothes can go to a women’s shelter where the ladies are transitioning back to the workforce and need business clothes. The everyday clothes can go to a general shelter to be distributed as they see fit.
I would never ever disgrace the woman who posted a picture of her dumpster OVERFLOWING with discarded items from her home with the picture but I’ll tell the backstory. She said she was in her late 20’s about to have their first child. Their house had “too much stuff” and she felt she had to make it safer for baby, so a major purge was in order. Then she posted the picture of the overflowing dumpster. There were chairs, laundry baskets, clothes, kitchen gadgets and small appliances, crafts, and more. It was a big dumpster and it was overflowing. I was in shock. I’m old and I don’t think I could fill a dumpster like that. How could a young couple at the beginning of their married life have that much stuff to discard already?
As I prepare for the move to what might be the last home I’ll ever live in, I know I’ll be purging. I have 45 adult years of stuff to sort through. And I know I buy too much and keep too much. I know I am sentimental about “stuff.’ Just read my Organizing Your Contacts post and you’ll know that’s true. But to fill a dumpster? I don’t think I would have enough to do that.
What Are We to Do?
Be Thoughtful and Follow the 4 R’s
Let me encourage you to be thoughtful of what you buy and follow the four R’s: Reduce, Reuse (or reclaim by cleaning properly), Recycle and Ruminate. I added ruminate – and it should be the first thing you do. It was the best R word that means consider, contemplate, to mull over in the mind. Some people, like my daughter, can do this very quickly. I’m slower at it. So I will see something and run through the, “Do I really need it? Will I use it (enough)? Is it safe (for the environment, my health, even for my pets)? Is it recyclable? Is there a product with better packaging (which is a good question for items you can buy in bulk – nuts, cereals, flours, sugar, beans, rice, spices, etc. or even choosing “frustration-free packaging” on Amazon)? My daughter will have an immediate sense of what to do. I may have to think about it longer – especially when it comes to clothes and items in the as-is section of IKEA. But it’s a habit to run through the R’s. I encourage you to make it your habit, too.
Well, this was a longer post than I intended. I hope you stayed through to the end.
Have a great week!
#wasteful #wastefulness #reuse #repurpose #recycle #savingmoney #wastenot